(A) The Ring of Gyges Argument
The bottom line of Thrasymarchus’ argument is that justice is the advantage of the stronger. Socrates agrees that being just is advantageous. He continues to persuade Thrasymarchus, however, that justice is not only advantageous for the stronger, but for everyone. Glaucon refuses to accept Thrasymarchus’ capitulation to Socrates’ arguments. Glaucon’s view is that Socrates has only highlighted the positive consequences of being just and not the intrinsic value of justice itself. By Socrates’ logic, Glaucon argues, the only value of being just is the good reputation and rewards it leads to. If this were the case, people would soon realize that they should not want to be just, but to be believed to be just, Glaucon argues. What is justice, really, without reputation?
To explore this topic and to further reinforce Thrasymarchus’ original account of justice, Glaucon brings up the myth of the Ring of Gyges. The story is about a shepherd in service of the ruler of Lydia, who, by accident, finds a magical ring with a magical ability; wearing it grants the power of invisibility. The man, then, uses his powers to seduce the queen, kill the king and seize power for himself. Basically, this hypothetical ring will grant whoever has it the ability to do whatever he pleases and get away with it. Glaucon argues, “no one, it seems, would be so incorruptible that he would stay on the path of justice” had they been in possession of this ring. He draws on another example of two magical rings being made, one handed to a just man and the other to an unjust man. Even the, so called, just man could not resist the temptation of abusing his power to his own advantage, knowing that he would get away with it.. The just man’s actions would ultimately end up the same as the unjust man’s. The point of the argument is that, if we strip justice of its consequences, justice would have no intrinsic value and no one would act just for the sake of being...
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